World Mental Health Day is approaching and with it our thoughts are centred on the importance of casting a light on mental health education, awareness and advocacy against social stigma.
At Marmalade HQ, we’re firm believers in promoting wellbeing and mindfulness at work, not least because it results in a happier and more motivated team of high achievers.
This is because work is a major part of our lives and it’s where we spend the majority of our time when we’re not with family or friends. It’s where we earn our money and where we build relationships with colleagues. It’s therefore little wonder that a toxic work environment can be corrosive to our mental health.
Having a fulfilling job is quite simply good for your mental health and wellbeing. In fact, the value added to the economy by people who are at work and have had mental health problems is as high as £225 billion per year, which represents a staggering 12.1 per cent of the UK’s total GDP. With these figures in mind, this is an issue that’s simply impossible to ignore.
This is especially the case when you also consider research from mental health charity Mind, which confirmed that a culture of fear and silence around mental health is costly to employers. It found that more than one in five (21 per cent) workers agreed that they had called in sick to avoid work and, when asked how workplace stress had affected them, 14 per cent admitted they had resigned and 42 per cent said they had considered resigning.
While good mental health is, of course, wonderful for workers, it also promotes increased productivity, working towards a common goal, a better reputation and a healthier bottom line. This ultimately means that everyone stands to gain from a workplace that pays heed to mental health issues.
We’re of the belief that it’s the responsibility of both employers and employees to help create businesses that are centred around a thriving, supportive community.
Our top tips will help you implement steps to achieving a positive culture in your own business, while understanding and proactively supporting colleagues who are struggling, be it from stress, anxiety or depression.
Understand your people
Great business starts on the inside and it's your people who are fundamental to everyday working and growth. The healthier your team are, the better that is for business. But can you honestly say that you can spot the signs of workplace depression on an individual basis?
It all starts with understanding your people and team. Those who suffer from ill mental health typically show more emotive tendencies and, when experiencing an episode, may be more sensitive to comments, office atmosphere and intrusive thoughts. By creating a safe environment and taking the time to get to know your employees (this is where your HR specialist can step in), you can protect against unintentional miscommunications.
Implement a mental health toolkit
Aim to prevent periods of unnecessary stress by providing support before an issue arises. Create a mental health toolkit with accompanying literature and call a meeting to help your employees know the techniques, tools and coping mechanisms.
Start with an anonymous employee wellbeing and happiness survey. This will help benchmark current feelings and attitudes to work, as well as highlighting red flags and areas that require more attention and support.
Room for headspace
If your corporate space allows it, provide a room or an area that encourages headspace or downtime. If not, encourage your staff to take regular breaks away from their screens to stretch their legs, get some fresh air and be present in nature. Multiple studies show that when staff are under extreme pressure, taking time out, even during the working day, can increase productivity and focus when they return.
Jigsaw puzzles, adult colouring books, inspirational stories, magazines and quote-inspired to-do-lists aren't just child's play. In fact, research shows that for the majority of mental health conditions, providing a creative outlet is extremely powerful for positively influencing focus and self esteem.
Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training
MHFA in the workplace training is a fundamental investment into the health and wellbeing of your team and company. Commit to helping your managers help your people and let the experts educate your team on how to spot the signs in the workplace, as well as providing tools for support. Remember to tell your team who's been trained in MHFA so they know who to turn to for extra guidance.
Be a great leader
If people are lucky enough to work for a company that cares about their staff as people, they're likely to have at least one key figure who leads and inspires like no other. Be the leader you needed when you first entered an office environment and take a minute to think about what that may look like. Make sure you listen, engage, practice patience and commit to regular one-to-one sessions.
Don't be afraid to share what you've learnt from testing experiences with your team, just be sure to demonstrate how perseverance and resilience helped you triumph.
Adopt a check-in system
For those members of your team who you suspect may struggle, or who have diagnosed conditions, agree to commit to a clear risk assessment system. This helps to quickly identify feelings and potential stresses, as well as healthy behaviours which can be coaxed out when the going gets especially tough. Make it clear that you are available for a chat should the need arise.
Pledge to fight the stigma
Make the most of online help and guidance and sign up to an industry-recognised and credible support service. Charities like Mind provide invaluable guidance to mental health sufferers, their families and carers. These organisations now specialise in workplace mental health training and support and are all on the same mission. This is to challenge mental health issues at work and create a stigma-free environment where employees understand that you believe their health and wellbeing not only matters, but comes first.
By committing to take mental health disorders such as anxiety, stress and workplace depression seriously, you'll encourage respect and improve trust from your employees.